This was thought to be one of the biggest weaknesses for the Sooners just weeks before the season until they got a shot in the arm when head coach Bob Stoops reinstated Jaz Reynolds--though he's not active--and Penn State transfer wide out Justin Brown joined the club. OU also boasts new threats Trey Metoyer, Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal, along with now-NCAA cleared Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders. Then, there's veteran Kenny Stills, who leads the team with 344 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 29 catches. So, there are plenty of options for quarterback Landry Jones to throw the ball to here.
At first glance, it's easy to say that Texas's cornerbacks haven't played up to their potential. But that says more about what people expected from the group than it does about the unit's actual struggles. Here's the thing: Carrington Byndom hasn't emerged as the shutdown guy this year that a lot of people expected after showing that kind of ability a year ago. It's not that he's been bad. He struggled in the opener against Wyoming, then had a poor outing against Ole Miss when the Longhorns were torched by Donte Moncrief. But he's been better since. Quandre Diggs has three interceptions and may have actually emerged as a better corner opposite Byndom. The duo held West Virginia's outside receivers Stedman Bailey and J.D. Woods to 99 yards receiving on 10 catches, a great rate given those players' production levels. When the Longhorns go to nickel, as they often will against Oklahoma, safety Kenny Vaccaro spins down. He's an outstanding third corner and a playmaker from his spot, both as a blitzer and a cover guy. Tavon Austin had 102 yards on 10 catches, but 40 of those yards came on a touchdown when the Longhorns were in zone. Vaccaro was matched up with him for much of the rest of the game, doing an outstanding job for a 215-pound guy asked to cover one of the league's most dynamic players. So while the Longhorns haven't been the total shutdown group people have expected, they're starting to pick up the pace there.
Byndom and Diggs are a couple of the better corners in the league, and it'll be interesting to see the matchup of Diggs on Stills. Byndom on Brown and the rest of the receiver-corner match-ups will be intriguing as well. That said, Texas ranks just 90th in the nation in passing efficiency defense, allowing opponents to complete 60.3 percent of their passes for 1,109 yards and nine touchdowns to this date in 2012. Opponents are also averaging 8.2 yards per attempt against the ‘Horns defense. On the other hand, Oklahoma only ranks 37th in passing offense and just 53rd in passing efficiency, even under the veteran Jones. So, while Jones has struggled, the receivers have still left some to be desired. It'll be a great battle on the outside, but the plethora of options outside for OU gives it the edge.
In Stills, Brown, Shepard and Metoyer, the Sooners have the makings of a salty receiving corps. But for whatever reason, their production just hasn't quite caught up yet. Some of that can be attributed to Jones and the way he spreads the ball around. But Oklahoma doesn't have a single receiver that stresses the defense like Donte Moncrief, nor a the depth that West Virginia has. The Longhorn corners put up a nice effort against the latter group, and may be coming on.